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Read with “Pride,” Part II: Lambda Literary Awards 2023 Nonfiction Finalists

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Read with “Pride,” Part II: Lambda Literary Awards 2023 Nonfiction Finalists

lambda award nonfic 2023

(To read our previous post about the finalists in the fiction categories, click here)

Lambda Literary Awards, also known as the “Lammys”, are awarded yearly by Lambda Literary Foundation to recognize the crucial role LGBTQ writers play in shaping the world, and to celebrate the very best in LGBTQ literature.

Instituted In 1989, the Lammys have maintained a proud tradition of celebrating vibrant, dynamic LGBTQ storytelling for over 30 years. Today, the awards celebrate more than 150 LGBTQ writers across 25 categories, and include several cash prizes for writers at all stages in their careers. 

The finalists for this year’s 35th Annual Lambda Literary Awards were selected by a panel of over 65 literary professionals from more than 1,350 book submissions. These selections represent the best of LGBTQ literature this year.

What better way to celebrate Pride Month than by checking out some of the finalist titles listed below, that will help you explore some new stories, viewpoints, and voices?

Bisexual Nonfiction

crane wife

The Crane Wife : A Memoir In Essays by C. J. Hauser

Novelist Hauser drops the veil of fiction to tell true tales of family and her own evolution in this staccato, funny, barbed, metaphor-laced, and thought-provoking memoir-in-essays. She brings forth a murderous great-grandfather and an accomplished radio and news executive grandfather, recounts her struggles with the full spectrum of her sexuality and her feelings about her body, tells hilarious tales of her fascination with robots and her online-dating misadventures, investigates visions of the ideal home, and dissects the heart-wrenching demise of an engagement (in the title essay hooked to her participation in a whooping-crane field study) and other close relationships.

Never Simple: A Memoir by Liz Scheier

Scheier’s mother Judith was a news junkie, a hilarious storyteller, a fast-talking charmer, a single mother whose devotion crossed the line into obsession, and, when in the grips of the mental illness that plagued every day of her life, a violent and abusive liar whose hold on reality was shaky at best. On an uneventful afternoon when Scheier was eighteen, her mother sauntered into the room to tell her two important things: one, she had been married for most of Scheier’s life to a man she’d never heard of, and two, the man she’d told Scheier was her father was entirely fictional. By the time she was done, she had built a farcical, half-true life for the two of them. One day twenty years later, Scheier receives a voicemail from Adult Protective Services, reporting that Judith has stopped paying rent and is refusing all offers of assistance. That call is the start of a shocking journey that takes mother and daughter deep into the cascading effects of decades of lies and deception.

Open : An Uncensored Memoir Of Love, Liberation, And Non-Monogamy by Rachel Krantz

When Rachel Krantz met and fell for Jacob, he told her that he was looking to make a commitment–one that did not include exclusivity. Both anxious and excited at the prospect of a different way to commit, Krantz entered a relationship built equally on love and liberation. And as an inveterate journalist and writer of extraordinary perceptiveness and emotional nuance, she not only put her heart on the line, but kept painstakingly detailed notes, interviewed other couples, and relentlessly interrogated her own emotions as she went down the rabbit hole of non-monogamy. What results is a unique combination of memoir and immersion journalism that reads like sexy, page-turning fiction and casts an unflinching eye on non-monogamy, from the debilitating jealousy and anxiety spirals to the heart-opening connections and exhilarating eroticism.

Transgender Nonfiction

before we were trans

Before We Were Trans : A New History Of Gender by Kit Heyam

Explores the history of transgender and gender nonconforming people, with a focus on those who identified in other than a straightforward binary fashion; on communities in West Africa, Asia, and among Native Americans; and on cross-dressing in World War I prison camps and in entertainment.

Feral City : On Finding Liberation In Lockdown New York by Jeremiah Moss

The pandemic lockdown of 2020 launched an unprecedented urban experiment. Traffic disappeared from the streets. Times Square fell silent. And half a million residents fled the most crowded city in America. In this innovative and thrilling book, author and social critic Moss, explores a city emptied of the dominant class-and their controlling influence. Biking through deserted Manhattan, he encountered the hustlers, eccentrics, and renegades who had been pressed into silence and invisibility by an oppressive, normative gentrification, now reemerging to reclaim the city. For one wild year the streets belonged to wandering nudists and wheelie bikers, mystical vagabonds and performance artists working to disrupt the status quo, passionate activists protesting for Black lives-along with the everyday New Yorkers who had been pushed to the margins for too long. Participating in a historic explosion of activism, resistance, and spontaneity, from queer BLM marches to exuberant outdoor dance parties, Moss discovered an intoxicating freedom.

The Third Person by Emma Grove

In the winter of 2004, a shy woman named Emma sits in Toby’s office. She wants to share this wonderful new book she’s reading, but Toby, her therapist, is concerned with other things. Emma is transgender, and has sought out Toby for approval for hormone replacement therapy. Emma has shown up at the therapy sessions as an outgoing, confident young woman named Katina, and a depressed, submissive workaholic named Ed. She has little or no memory of her actions when presenting as these other two people. And then Toby asks about her childhood. As the story unfolds, we discover clues to Emma’s troubled past, and how and why these other two people may have come into existence. As Toby juggles treating three separate people, each with their own unique personalities and memories, he begins to wonder if Emma is merely acting out to get attention, or if she actually has Dissociative Identity Disorder. Is she just a troubled woman in need of help? And is “the third person” in her brain protecting her or derailing her chances of ever finding peace?

LGBTQ Nonfiction

and the category is

And The Category Is… : Inside New York’s Vogue, House, And Ballroom Community by Ricky Tucker

Art critic Tucker debuts with a lively if disjointed “love letter” to New York City’s ballroom community and its LGBTQ Black and Latinx performers. He describes the stylized dancing, or “voguing,” of ballroom participants as a manifestation of the idea that “bodily freedom can be a path to personal and social freedom,” and ballroom culture as “the invisible creating visibility for themselves.” Tucker also discusses the evolution of the “realness categories” on which ballroom dancers are judged, and delves into how TV shows such as Pose and the funding of balls by big nonprofits have transformed ballroom culture.

The Black Period : On Personhood, Race, And Origin by Hafizah Geter

Geter disrupts the myths of America’s origins and contemporary America through her experiences as the queer Nigerian-born daughter of a Muslim Nigerian woman and a Black American man from a Southern Baptist family in Jim Crow Alabama. This unique combination of gripping memoir and Afrofuturist thought, follows Hafizah on a journey that tells her at every turn she’s not worthy. At the same time, she manages to sidestep shame, confront disability, embrace forgiveness, and emerge from the erasures America imposes to exist proudly and unabashedly as herself.

How Far The Light Reaches : A Life In Ten Sea Creatures by Sabrina Imbler

Imbler profiles ten of the ocean’s strangest creatures, drawing astonishing connections between their lives and ours and illuminating wondrous models of survival, adaptation, identity, sex, and care on our faltering planet.

Virology: Essays For The Living, The Dead, And The Small Things In Between by Joseph Osmundson

A leading microbiologist tackles the scientific and sociopolitical impact of viruses in twelve striking essays. Drawing on his expertise in microbiology, Osmundson brings readers under the microscope to understand the structure and mechanics of viruses and to examine how viruses like HIV and COVID-19 have redefined daily life. Osmundson’s buoyant prose builds on the work of the activists and thinkers at the forefront of the HIV/AIDS crisis and critical scholars like José Esteban Munoz to navigate the intricacies of risk reduction, draw parallels between queer theory and hard science, and define what it really means to “go viral.” This dazzling multidisciplinary collection offers novel insights on illness, sex, and collective responsibility. 

The Women’s House Of Detention : A Queer History Of A Forgotten Prison by Hugh Ryan

 Greenwich Village’s most forbidding and forgotten queer landmark, stood from 1929 to 1974, imprisoning tens of thousands from all over New York City. The little-known stories of the queer women and trans-masculine people incarcerated in this building present a uniquely queer argument for prison abolition. The “House of D” acted as a nexus, drawing queer women down to Greenwich Village from every corner of the city. Some of these women-Angela Davis, Grace Paley, Andrea Dworkin, Afeni Shakur-were famous, but the majority were working-class people, incarcerated for the “crimes” of being poor and improperly feminine. Today, approximately 40 percent of people in women’s prisons identify as queer; in earlier decades, the percentage was almost certainly higher. Historian Ryan explores the roots of this crisis of queer and trans incarceration, connecting misogyny, racism, state-sanctioned sexual violence, colonialism, sex work, and the failures of prison reform.

Lesbian Memoir/Biography

pretty baby

Pretty Baby : A Memoir by Chris Belcher

Moving between the embodied world of the pro domme and the abstract realm of academia, a former sex worker, who branded herself as L.A.’s Renowned Lesbian Dominatrix, reveals how lessons from the classroom apply to the dungeon and vice versa, showing how power and desire can be renegotiated–or reinforced.

Gay Memoir/Biography

All Down Darkness Wide : A Memoir by Sean Hewitt

When Seán Hewitt meets Elias, the two fall headlong into a love story. But as Elias struggles with severe mental illness, they soon come face-to-face with crisis. This is a perceptive and unflinching meditation on the burden of living in a world that too often sets happiness and queer life at odds, and a tender and honest portrayal of what it’s like to be caught in the undertow of a loved one’s deep depression. As lives are made and unmade, this memoir asks what love can endure and what it cannot. Delving into his own history, enlisting the ghosts of queer figures before him, Hewitt plumbs the darkness in search of answers. From a nineteenth-century cemetery in Liverpool to a sacred grotto in the Pyrenees, it is a journey of lonely discovery followed by the light of community. Haunted by the rites of Catholicism and spectres of shame, it is nevertheless marked by an insistent search for beauty. 

high risk homosexual

High-Risk Homosexual : A Memoir by Edgar Gomez

A debut memoir about coming of age as a gay, Latinx man in a culture of machismo, Gomez’s High-Risk Homosexual opens in the ultimate anti-gay space: his uncle’s cockfighting ring in Nicaragua, where he was sent at twelve years old to become a man. The story then moves through the queer spaces where he learned the joy of being gay and Latinx, including Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, a drag queen convention in Los Angeles, and the doctor’s office where he was diagnosed a “high-risk homosexual.” With vulnerability, humor, and quick-witted insights into racial, sexual, familial, and professional power dynamics, Gomez shares a hard-won path to taking pride in the parts of himself that he’d kept hidden. 

LGBTQ Comics (Nonfiction)

A Pros And Cons List For Strong Feelings : A Graphic Memoir by Will Betke-Brunswick

During Will Betke-Brunswick’s sophomore year of college, their beloved mother, Elizabeth, is diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer. They only have ten more months together, which Will documents in evocative two-color illustrations. But as we follow Will and their mom through chemo and hospital visits, their time together is buoyed by laughter, jigsaw puzzles, modern art, and vegan BLTs. In a delightful twist, Will portrays their family as penguins, and their friends are cast as a menagerie of birds. In between therapy and bedside chats, they navigate uniquely human challenges, as Will prepares for math exams, comes out as genderqueer, and negotiates familial tension. A Pros and Cons List for Strong Feelings is an act of loving others and loving oneself, offering a story of coming-of-age, illness, death, and life that announces the arrival of a talented storyteller in Will Betke-Brunswick. At its heart, Will’s story is a celebration of a mother-child relationship filled with unconditional devotion, humor, care, and openness.

gay giant

Gay Giant by Gabriel Ebensperger

A child who feels like an outsider in a world that’s set against him. A boy who sings on the playground instead of playing soccer, who likes Barbies, and whose secretly favorite car is the one called Tutti Frutti. Gabriel Ebensperger shares with us his struggles with his own inadequacy, his feelings of guilt, and above all, his fear that his “difference” will be discovered. The vibrant bright pink pages of Gay Giant paint a picture of what it was like to grow up being gay in the ’90s, through the voice of an endearing character, who on the way to becoming an adult realizes that the rejection of the world is never over, and that true acceptance comes from within yourself.

Archana Chiplunkar, Adult Services & Acquisitions Librarian

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